Union home minister Rajnath Singh’s recent statement that the government was determined to resolve Kashmir issue and that a permanent solution to the imbroglio would be found by 2022 is neither an off-thecuff remark nor can be easily dismissed. He stated this more than once without actually laying bare at least the contours of the roadmap if not sharing the details for security reasons. The deadline set by him evoked varied responses from supporters, sceptics and political rivals particularly when the term of the government ends in May 2019.
Politically speaking, at least the deadline could be explained as part of the BJP’s psychological warfare against the rivals to pin them down before the next Lok Sabha elections. Coming from the home minister himself the statement cannot be dismissed casually. It has to be taken at the minister’s, a veteran leader of BJP as well, face value. The deadline fixed by him might have evoked some fun but the determination behind reiteration of his statement definitely hints that some plan was at work.
Normally, dealing with situations such as Kashmir does not warrant setting time frames to fix the problem or that sticking one’s neck out could prove disastrous. Singh has certainly not been naive in fixing a deadline to resolve Kashmir that goes beyond the life of the current Lok Sabha. In fact, he seems to be covering his government’s flanks by giving such a time frame as non-deliverance on an earlier deadline could have cost the BJP dearly in the elections. But definitely some plan is at work no matter whatever would its outcome be.
The government’s determination to proactively deal with Pak-sponsored terrorism in the Valley is visible on ground. The policy on this front is twofolds; eliminate terrorists and at the same time numb their harbourers and the best way to achieve the second target is to throttle their sources of money. Both these operations are moving simultaneously which is reflected in the killing of record number of terrorists and NIA raids on All Party Hurriyat Conference leaders and their money launderers.
The NIA Is uNeArThINg The moNey TrAcks ANd TrAIl whIch hAs beeN fouNd lINked To secTIoNs of TrAders eN rouTe reAchINg The sepArATIsT leAders
It is not for the first time that this strategy to block channels of funding terrorism has been adopted as it was tried though differently by the then Governor Jagmohan in a localised manner before the vested interests plotted his premature ouster from the state. But, yes it is for the first time that this is being done as a wellthought-out strategy and part of a broader policy framework. And it is encouraging to see that even the highly glorified separatist leaders have been caught, interrogated and some even jailed by the NIA. The terrorism and militancy in Kashmir is fuelled by money arriving in the Valley through dubious channels and in turn it has become an easy source of becoming rich overnight by the separatist leaders and the select band of their supporters whereas the others are left to die in the name of fighting for ‘azadi’.
As per plan the separatists are being hit where it hurts them the most. The NIA is unearthing the money tracks and trail which has been found linked to sections of traders and businessmen en route reaching the separatist leaders. Ever since the Valley was engulfed by terrorism no one including the government agencies had any estimation of exact amount of money involved although some sources were known. A rough estimate has pegged the amount at Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 crore but it could be much more than that also. It is imperative to unearth the nexus behind generation of this ill-gotten money if any operation aimed at defeating the terrorists is to succeed and that is what the current Kashmir policy of the government aims at.
The NIA and other investigating agencies have drawn a list of those involved in hawala transactions and accordingly taking action against those involved. The direct linkage of alleged hawala transactions to terror funding has enabled the government to pave way for the NIA to breeze past the Income Tax department and hit the separatists directly.
“By ordering the NIA to clamp down on separatists, the government has made it clear that it is accusing the Hurriyat of ‘waging a war against India’. This money is allegedly used in organising stone pelters and funding hubs of radicalisation,” said an investigating officer in the thick of action, adding that the idea was to choke terror funds and push the separatists to a corner.
As such The bJp-pdp AgeNdA of goverNANce Is sIleNT oN All core Issues ThAT Are closer To The heArT of bJp INcludINg ArTIcle 370
An encouraging aspect in this scenario is that despite its Kashmir-centric focus and alleged soft-peddling towards separatists, PDP has backed the Centre’s action at choking the funding of separatists who in turn acted as a conduit for disbursal of the same to foment trouble across the state. But would the PDP go beyond that to support the Centre’s efforts at finding a permanent solution of the latter’s liking that remains to be seen till the initiatives in that regard come.
The government is on the right track on this front but the quest for a much needed permanent solution to Kashmir problem would require more than this. There is no doubt that Singh (read the government) must be having something in mind before talking about a permanent solution and setting a deadline. In fact, his expression of fixing deadline, beyond current government’s life, for a permanent solution is an indication that the government has been mulling over and has something up its sleeve and also that it could be time consuming.
It makes an interesting case study in the light of the government and the ruling BJP’s refusal to talk to separatists or terrorists before they shun violence and agree to talk within the framework of the Constitution. What are the options in terms of finding a permanent solution if these pre-conditions are not met with and no dialogue is held with them?
The one strong option in sight could be the trifurcation or reorganization of the state. Given the fact that since BJP is in ruling alliance with a diametrically opposite, on ideological planks, Peoples Democratic Party in Jammu & Kashmir, even considering this option would mean causing severe strain in the alliance to the extent of rupturing it. The tie for BJP would then be calculating in terms of bigger political gains on the national levels as against the fragility which this region could be subjected to as result of a possible re-organisation.
As such the BJP-PDP agenda of governance is silent on all core issues that are closer to the heart of BJP. For instance, clause 8 of the document referring to contentious Article 370 of the Constitution that gives special status to the state provides that the present situation will be maintained on all constitutional provisions including special status.
As an option both abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A, that deprives women of the state of hereditary rights, and re-organisation of the state can be tried as there is a strong demand for both the ideas in Jammu and Ladakh regions of the state. In fact, the BJP has been promising separate state to Jammu and Union Territory status to Ladakh from time to time.
The party had in the run up to 2014 Lok Sabha elections promised that a wider debate would be held on the issue of abrogation of Article 370 involving all the stakeholders before firming up a final view. It was welcomed by elements in Kashmir Valley and also many of them backed a debate on the issue. Unfortunately, the debate in this form never took place perhaps the alliance with PDP proved to be an impediment.
The security forces have over the months successfully launched a number of operations against the terrorists and have been able to establish an upper hand. It is primarily due to proper flow of actionable intelligence feedback particularly from local channels that some big names have fallen to the bullets of the security forces. As many as 102 terrorists have been killed so far this year, making it the highest number of killings in the January-July period in the past seven years of militancy, as per the official records.
Building on this success the security forces have also prepared a hit list of several other terrorists belonging to dreaded outfits such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaishe-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen as part of operation “hunt down”. The slain terrorists included Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Bashir Lashkari, who was involved in the killing of six policemen in south Kashmir, and top Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, he noted. The security forces, as done on earlier occasions also, have successfully done their job in containing militancy to a great extent and prepared ground for the governments and the political parties to do the rest. In this backdrop there is a strong case for a structured debate at least on the efficacy or not of Article 370 and its other related provisions before thinking of a reorganisation of the state.
These are certainly options that cannot be ruled out but ticklish issues to the core. The knots which have been tightened by baggage of history have to be untied systematically. It is necessary to create a congenial atmosphere in all the three regions of the state to move forward on this front. Any hurried action without involving the stakeholders could prove disastrous and give birth to a new set of problems instead of resolving the old festering wound.
Any move aimed at or at least thinking to abrogate Article 370 or re-organisation of the state should be detached from politics. It should not be approached, by all stakeholders particularly by the ruling dispensations at the Centre and in the state, with a pre-determined mindset though there is no harm in keeping the broader aim of finding a permanent solution to problem “K” in mind.